Dissent fails to derail vacation rentals
He moved to McMinnville from a Cannon Beach neighborhood with more vacation rentals than permanent residences, he said, and doesn’t want to see Cannon Beach’s mistake repeated here. It only served to heighten his concern when the commission voted in September to eliminate a requirement that vacation rentals be spaced at least 660 feet apart.
But his fellow commissioners feel his fears are overblown, and have generally favored requests coming before them.
When the city planning staff recommended approval of all four requests on Thursday’s agenda, Hillestad accused the city’s professional planners and lay planning commissioners of “rubber-stamping” applications.
Chair Frank Butler took exception, saying it isn’t up to the city to decide how it would like residents to use their own property. He said its role is limited to determining whether applicants have met established criteria, and if they have, granting them permits.
Applicant Shannon Thorson said members of the planning staff “are very clear” about the criteria when property owners call for information. The fee is $950, she said, so “it wouldn’t make a lot of sense” for someone to submit an obviously unworthy application, she said.
Thorson told Hillestad McMinnville planning commissioners ought to be pleased to see applicants adhering so well to city criteria.
“It indicates thorough work by your planning staff,” she said. “As a taxpayer and as a struggling small business owner, I appreciate that.”
Commissioners went on to approve all four applications, three of them unanimous votes.
Hillestad said he didn’t feel he had sufficient legal grounds to oppose the others, despite his stated reservations, but cast the lone vote against Thorson’s application.
Thorson is maintaining an apartment in the basement of her home that she told commissioners she eventually will seek to convert to a vacation rental as well. That was too much for Hillestad, who said, “I’m worried about the future impact on adjacent use.”
He told his fellow commissioners, “I’m really feeling bad about the trend we’re going in.”
Vacation home rental businesses have been regulated in the city since 2008. There are currently six rental businesses in operation, five of which have been permitted and one that began operating prior to the adoption of regular standards.